The “Route des Grandes Alpes” [official website] goes on paved roads over many of the high passes between the Mediterranean Sea and Lac Leman / Lake Geneva. There’s obvious signs for it on the mountain roads, so it’s fairly straightforward to follow—for car drivers and motorcyclists and cyclists who want a tour thru the French Alps. I don’t know how French cycle-tourists usually ride it, but lots of English-speaking cyclists tend to follow the official route, or minor variations (such as substituting Mont-Cenis for Galibier).
Flaw—the critical flaw is in the northern end, where the road route goes over Saisies > Aravis > Colombiere > Gets and finishes at Thonon-les-Bains. So the big problem is that it never gets anywhere near Mont Blanc. The only justification for this I can think of is that the official route designers did not want part of the route to go thru Switzerland. But the consequence is that the grandest mountain views of France get lost. How can you claim to have toured the “Grandes Alpes” without close views of Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles de Chamonix?
I finished riding every kilometer from Sea to Lac over the high passes a couple years ago. Actually for most of it I rode single-day loop routes (not a continuous multi-day traverse), so I rode over roughly twice as many passes [see map] as are on the official route.
But I was disappointed by the northern section over Gets to Evians, because it didn’t have much good mountain views (even of the most dramatic Chablais peaks, let alone the Massif du Mont Blanc). So I thought about how to ride some alternate route that with mountain views more “grand”. And I then I rode it, and I liked it much better than the nothern stage of the official Route des Grandes Alpes.
“grander” northern section, basic idea (riding north-bound) is after riding over Col de la Colombiere, from Sallanches take the secondary road thru Passy + Servoz to les Houches and Chamonix, then over Col del Montets to Vallorcine + Chatelard (optionally also Gietroz + Finhaut) and over Col de la Forclaz to Martigny. Then northwest in the Rhone valley to Monthey, then climb some lesser-known roads (south of the main road) up to Pas de Morgins, and finish at Evian-les-Bains. More details in this report.
How it’s better:
* much closer views of Mont Blanc + Aiguilles de Chamonix + Aig Verte from various angles.
* pleasant riding thru Vallorcine.
* views of the Glacier du Trient.
* big view over the Rhone valley on descent to Martigny.
* close views of the Dents du Midi on climb up east side of Pas de Morgins.
* views of the dramatic la Dent d’Oche and other interesting high peaks from west of the Pas de Morgins.
* (optionally) some rather pretty farm country if take longer roads more south + west from the obvious D21 road to Evian.
* views of Lac Leman descending to Evian thru the “balcons” are way better than views of the lake descending the gorge from Gets to Thonon-les-Bains.
* I think the waterfront of Evian-les-Bains is prettier than Thonon.
There’s lots of it I’ll gladly do again as single-day rides—some ideas in that report.
I’d be glad for lots more suggestions about fun + pretty riding on the roads around that area.